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Views on the news: Iceland's frozen debts, a Tory budget and the state of the high street

Guardian Economics 8th January 2010

Debt over Iceland's Icesave bank, shortfalls in the Conservative spending pledges and the record sales of John Lewis sparked this week's big business debates

In a week of one of the biggest freezes for decades, Iceland appropriately took centre stage. Bloggers were as divided as the Icelandic authorities on whether £3.4bn should be repaid to Britain and Netherlands following the collapse of the country's Icesave bank in 2008.

"If they cannot behave responsibly, cannot (or will not) pay their debts then they should be excluded from western economic activity," said DeimosP. "We cannot afford to subsidise their irresponsible behaviour."

"Not the first time Britain has been shafted by a bunch of reckless Vikings," concluded OneManisAnisland.

"I'll get worked up about it after the British and American banks have repaid the money given to them out of public funds to recycle their gambling debts," countered Whiting.

While christiaanbriggs said: "Icelanders have no moral obligation to pay for the recklessness of a few greedy and irresponsible bankers.The British government abused anti-terrorist legislation to force this debt on Iceland. I hope Icelanders have enough gumption to tell the UK government to get stuffed, otherwise they will be enslaved by debt."

Icesave's debts were not the only figures under scrutiny. Alistair Darling's claims that the Conservative Party had only explained how it would pay for £11bn of £45bn in spending pledges got many bloggers hot under the collar.

"Darling lecturing on numbers not adding up is a bit like Pete Doherty fronting a healthy lifestyle campaign," wrote Koolio. "The Tories have ropey numbers, but the Labour cabinet doesn't have the credibility to attack them."

"Only £34bn?" asked yammerhant. "At least that's an improvement on the £45bn black hole left in the economy due to Broon's incompetence – even before the economy hit the skids."

But, says StivBator, both parties are missing the point anyhow: "The public are now ahead of both parties and want more regulation of the freemarket, electoral reform, frontline services protected and the rich properly taxed."

Retailers were in the spotlight too, with a series of high street firms reporting. Not everyone saw the best Christmas ever from department store John Lewis as a reason for celebration.

"We are living on borrowed money, both as individuals and as a nation," said centerish. "This cannot last. Something will have to give. The only questions are what, and when. I predict that John Lewis will be less delighted in around July/August and will have a very thin Christmas 2010."

"Yes, consumerism is alive and crawling," added RoseTinted. "What hope is there for the planet at this rate?"

Of course, for a truly passionate reaction over retail, one needs only mention the dreaded S-word – supermarkets. Comments from Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, defending the UK's largest grocers, created a stir.

"Hmm – director general of trade association representing retailers pens article for media defending the large retailers," pondered orwellwasright. "Move along – nothing of any worth here..."

"Supermarkets and their main suppliers may not be bullies, but manipulative and self interested they are," pronounced CaptCrash. "They don't have any form of social conscience.

"Psychopathic is a better way of describing them."

But, karadas was not impressed by those bloggers that waxed lyrical about buying local: "Some middle-class people have a fetish about buying food in a local shop. Most people just go to the supermarket."

sithepi agreed: "Don't get me wrong, I have my romantic side, I love the idea of old, traditional rustic, family-run business supplying their local area with local produce, knowing all their customers by name, letting them off with a few quid here and there if they're a bit hard-up...

"But to think we should let that nostalgia stand in the way of a system which is far more efficient and able to sell goods far more cheaply... Sorry, that is just Luddite, pure and simple."

Also popular in the love 'em or hate 'em debates was Ryanair. However the budget airline got a mostly negative reaction following comments from Office of Fair Trading chief executive John Fingleton, which accused Ryanair of taunting customers over £5 transaction fees.

So hojo kicked off with a sarcastic jibe: "And anyone who has taken advantage of flying with that superb airline, will know what excellent value for money it really is, especially the £1 seats out on the wing. For more information on how its passengers regard this fantastic airline, look on the internet at Ryanair customer complaints!"

"My objection is the compulsory £5 handling charge per person per ticket," said alwiello. "Given that no one actually handles anything: I look online, book online, pay online, check in online, get to the airport and through security without once encountering anyone from Ryanair and get charged a fiver for the pleasure of not having to be handled by anyone."

"It's an interesting experiment," pronounced RonnieS. "Can you succeed in the long term whilst pissing off a large proportion of your market?" Microsoft and Ikea tried quite hard but Ryanair are really going for it!"

As are our leading political parties, it would seem. The revelation that factories in the north-west of England and east Midlands have had their energies supplies cut off thanks to a combination of severe weather and creaking power infrastructure, fuelled a fierce political debate.

"There we have it, the final death throws of another Labour government," declared Megrez. "Next thing we'll have rubbish piling up in the streets and blackouts. It takes me straight back to the 1970s..."

Hold on, said OddFellow, isn't this: "Another bit of PR spin by the conservatives... It's spot the story every day now... Are there prizes?"

While tonystoke decided big business was to blame: "Part of the justification for our extortionate energy bills was to enable the power companies to fix our 'creaking power infrastructure' – so what happened?Of course, I forgot, as usual, the money has gone into the pockets of the directors and shareholders. Isn't privatisation wonderful?"

Well, perhaps things will get better now everything is looking up? After all there were more positive figures released this week – this time saying the services sector showed its strongest growth in new orders for more than two years.

However, GolemXIV has little hope that recovery is on the way: "Recovery – for those deemed to big to fail, yes. Never in question. For the little people? Who do you think you are? Important?"

Fear not, SiggeBjork, who wrote to comment on the Icelandic repayment crisis, has an offer which may be the answer to at least some problems: "People of Britain. Surrender and we will take our freezing weather back!

"Best regards from Iceland."

Well, it is a start. Keep them coming.

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